Solid Tools for Spiritual Seekers

mipi-harav:

(Published in the Times Colonist, “Spiritually Speaking” column, Canada Day, July 1, 2017)

I have five “spiritual guides” who I invoke on a regular basis. They keep me grounded, honest and hopefully, a bit balanced.  These guides reflect aspects of my personal theology and are deeply influenced by Jewish wisdom and teachings.  I want to share them with you because I sense that they are universal and are solid tools for spiritual seekers.

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Remaining true to our values in turbulent times

mipi-harav:

In last week’s Torah portion Lekh Lekha and this week in Parashat Vayera, Abraham is tested. Abraham goes through a difficult trial where he is stripped down to his essence and is thrust into an experience that requires him to draw on his deepest internal resources and faith. Our tradition understands Torah as entirely eternal and absolutely relevant—which means that it must awaken something within each of us, something powerful, to teach us about our lives in the here and now. 

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Remaining true to our values in turbulent times

In last week’s Torah portion Lekh Lekha and this week in Parashat Vayera, Abraham is tested. Abraham goes through a difficult trial where he is stripped down to his essence and is thrust into an experience that requires him to draw on his deepest internal resources and faith. Our tradition understands Torah as entirely eternal and absolutely relevant—which means that it must awaken something within each of us, something powerful, to teach us about our lives in the here and now. 

We are currently witnessing a moment in history that is fractious, full of fear and in some cases hatred. While we are slightly removed from the tumult, living on our beautiful island, I know that many of us feel a sense of deepening anxiety. The appointment of a senior advisor in the White House with even a trace of connection to the poisonous ideology of the Alt Right is more than a little disconcerting.

In our B’nei Mitzvah program, where we do our utmost to educate our children to become thoughtful responsible Jewish adults, I teach my students about what I call “front-loading ethics.” I want my students to imagine themselves in situations that require them to make difficult decisions. I ask them to imagine their best selves and to look to Torah as a fundamental guide in exploring these decisions in order to have the tools to make real life decisions when they arise and develop in their lives. I believe it is important to know who you hope to be; to know your core values so they can inform, advise and navigate us when we are faced with life’s trials, when we are tested.

When I read the news, my “Spidey Sense” is activated. I still trust the American democratic process and I do not believe that we are currently thrust into a collective life trial of Abrahamic proportions. However, I do think that now is a crucial time to reflect on our values. To imagine who we hope to be if we are, God forbid, faced with the realities that the poisonous ideology of the Alt Right hopes to implement. I read a blog from a Jewish American student who asks the same question I received from a wise elder in our congregation: 

If the US government were to order Moslems to register themselves would we in the Jewish community have the courage of the Danes who donned yellow stars and register ourselves as Moslem?

I never want to face such a situation but I feel like one of the paths to empowerment is for us to imagine how our best selves would respond.
I also know that when current events generate anxiety, people are often on edge. Communication can lack clarity and emotions are more raw and intense than usual. This is a time to bring light to others. This is a time for tenderness. This is a time for all of us to turn up the volume on our ḥesed, our loving kindness, and to remember to judge others with a “Good Eye” while staying true to our values through what may be turbulent times. 

Bevirkat Shalom, with blessings of peace,
Rabbi Harry